Friday, 31 October 2008

Happy Halloween!!!

Happy Halloween!!!

Today we could go to the office with our halloween costumes!!! I'm not used to this, but going with the spirit of the fun in the office, I tried a little something:

Around half the office dressed up, but I won't post their pictures without their consent, now, this one was SOOO good that I couldn't stop myself xD

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The inspection

The inspection was really really interesting and we learned lots of different things. Normally an inspection is made to the house just to see what problems it has and the client (the buyer) has to decide if (s)he wants the house or negotiate repairs or a lower price.

The inspection includes looking for humidity, cracks on the walls, floor or ceiling, check if the furnace and air conditioning are working, check if all included electric ampliances are working (fridge, kitchen, dishwasher, etc).

They also check whatever they can access from the electric instalation and the plumming, the attic to check the ceiling of the house, water preassure, roofs and whatever they can see about the fundations of the house.

One of the important things to remember is that they can't break anything, so they wont break the walls to see if the plumming is ok (for example) and they can't never ever be 100% sure that everything is working perfectly, but they can always give you a better idea of what you are buying and if everything appears to be in working condition.

Our inspector is reaaaally good, since he is from Argentina the inspection was in spanish, and he explained EVERYTHING he did and how everything worked, like how to change the filter of the furnace, how to control the air conditioning, how to see if the roofs need repairs, and lots of other things :D

The cost? $320 payable with check, and besides the confort of knowing that our house is above average and the great class we got, he gave us that big folder where it explains in much more detail what we need to know about Canadian houses and the kind of things we need to do every month/year. :)

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Making an offer

Now that you fell in love with a house, what do you do? You make an offer! An offer may become your final contract to buy the house, so make sure is well done; if you are using a realtor, great! they help you with that, if you are not, sorry but I'm not sure how do you do it by yourself.

The case is that the price the sellers are asking is not exactly the price that you pay, it may be more, it may be less, so you have to be prepared when you find THE house and stablish a final price for you. This is easier to explain with examples:

The first house we liked and wanted to make an offer was listed for $320.000, so we offered $308.000 (which was the price a similar house got sold a month before) and a few repairs that needed to be done. The seller sent it back for $318.000 and no repairs (final offer), so we decided not to buy it; it was too expensive for what it was.

Then, when we fell in love with our house, the listing price was $339.900 (a month before was $344.900), so we went to our realtor's office and saw similar houses in the same area to compare prices and see how much we could offer for the house, and he recommended us to offer $329.000, with a closing date of November 28 (the sellers were asking for October) and a deposit of $5000, and the house had to pass the inspection to our satisfaction.

We sent the offer and we had to wait for their answer, when we got it was $336.000, they accepted the closing date, changed the deposit to $10.000 and agreed to the inspection. Now we could have sent another contra-offer on top of that one but decided to accept :D So that was the beginning of our contract and our final price!!!

In other cases, you will see yourself paying more than the asking price if you have other people fighting for that house too. I have a friend that was buying an apartment, she made an offer and the seller communicated saying no to that offer and that they had another offer they were considering (they don't tell you for how much) so you need to send a higher offer to win the house. I think this one is really stressfull!!!

Another example is a friend that found her dream home. The house was listed at $349.900, she offered $332.000 (aprox. I don't remember this one exactly), they got it back for $345.000 and they sent it back for $340.000 (final offer), and the sellers accepted!!! :D So in this case, she managed to buy for $10.000 less than the listed price and the sellers where the ones to accept the offer.

There you have it, how close are the real prices to the listed prices and what you can expect to happen when making an offer for a house ;) Next step, the inspection!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Housing Area

Once we have the realtor and the mortgage broker, we need to decide what we want and where we want it. You may think this one is easy, but it's not so much when you need to take into consideration what you want, the location and the price.

We wanted a house, either semi-dettach (is like a big house divided in 2 in the middle) or a dettach, at least 3 bedrooms, at least 2 and a half bathrooms, open concept kitchen, a private garden, a garage, a finished basement, a nice location close to public transportation, not too old and under $350.000. Easy? not so much.

There is no way you can find a house like that in Toronto, so you need to get away a little bit. Ok, what about Vaughan? Too expensive! A house like that is more than $350.000, less than $400.000 but if it's more that what we can afford, why counting?

Ok, what about Mississauga? Nice choice! Is really close to Toronto and we can get exactly what we want, or at least close to that ^^

Really, for all the ones that are scared/mad/confused that we are "leaving" Toronto and moving to Mississauga when we said we loved Toronto, don't be! For me, all those areas (Vaughan, Mississauga) are very much Toronto, just a little bit to the side and with less buildings; I'll keep saying I live in Toronto, just that my mail will say Mississauga xD I'll still work in Downtown Toronto, I'll still be here a LOT, and I still love Toronto, nothing against it! It's just that our dream house was built in Mississauga!

Next episode, you have the realtor and mortgage broker, you fell in love with the house, how do you proceed?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

First snow flakes Fall 2008

Today we got the first snow flakes in Toronto for this winter!! Wow, really soon eh?

Monday, 20 October 2008

A few pictures of Toronto

To break a little bit the stream of posts without pictures, a post with a few pictures my family took while they were here :)


Old City Hall:

Eaton Centre:


Kensington Market:

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Yesterday I got my G2!

Yes! I'm finally able to drive in Canada :D

The test was really easy, especially after the classes I took with one of the Ex-Examiners academy instructors. I thought it would be better this way since I had almost a year without driving and I was a little rusty, besides, they give you the tips to go for a perfect test!

The instructor came to my house and we had a 2 hours first class where he saw how good or bad I was. With that class he told me that I need it 2 more hours and the test. He charged me $30 the hour (which is the price all other academies I asked charge) and $140 for the car the day of the test.

The day of the test, he will give you 2 more hours (included in the price) of practice, and will take you to the testing centre, where you'll have the test in the instructor's car.

The test takes between 10 and 15 minutes, where you have to do regular things like turning right, turning left, stoping at a light and stops signs, parallel parking, three point turn and side parking.

So now I have my G2! :D If you want the name of the instructor, let me know! He is really good ;)

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Mortgage Brokers

The second step after getting a real estate agent is to get a mortgage pre-approval. One major advantage of getting pre-approved for a home mortgage loan is that it gives you a firm idea of how much you can borrow. If you know how much you can borrow and how much you have for a down payment, you can easily set a maximum price as you search for a home. You will not waste countless hours looking at homes, only to find out afterwards that you cannot afford the mortgage. (Quote)

It is important to remember that the amount of mortgage you will qualify for is the maximum. It is the amount that the lender feels you can afford, but it is not necessarily the amount that you want to pay. It sometimes is advantageous to be conservative here. For example, if you qualify for a $100,000 mortgage and you have $15,000 available in cash for downpayment and closing costs, you are qualified to buy homes with a maximum selling price of $115,000. So as to not push yourself to the limit, you may want to look at homes that sell in the $100,000 to $110,000 range. (Quote)

How do you get a mortgage pre-approval? The easiest way is to get the help of a Mortgage Broker (which real estate agents normally have). A mortgage broker acts as an intermediary who sells mortgage loans on behalf of individuals or businesses, so (s)he will have a portfolio with different mortgages from different companies, and you'll have all the information in one place without having to go from bank to bank asking for one.

Typically the tasks of a mortgage broker are:
  • Assessment of the borrowers circumstances. This may include assessment of credit history (normally obtained via a credit report) and affordability (verified by income documentation).
  • Assessing the market to find a mortgage product that fits the clients needs.
  • Applying for a lenders agreement in principle (pre-approval)
  • Gathering all needed documents (paystubs/payslips, bank statements, etc.)
  • Completing a lender application form.
  • Explaining the legal disclosures.
  • Submitting all material to the lender.

So, if you want to know how much you can afford is good to get the services of a mortgage broker that will explain everything to you, giving your credit history and others, but please don't do this without a real intention to get a house since they will check your credit history and that will stay in it, telling everyone that checks it that you already tried to get pre-approved.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Real Estate Agents

This is going to be my first part of my housing series, where little by little I want to inform you all about how to buy a house ;)

What is one of the first steps you need to do when you decide to buy a home? You can start in different places but one that is the most useful is finding a real estate agent. Real estate agents help you find the perfect home for you and take you by the hand along the whole process, making it a lot easier!

And what kind of real estate agent you need? A realtor! "The term REALTOR® is a trademark identifying real estate licensees in Canada who are members of The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). REALTORS® adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Business Practice. The code of ethics is a firm set of rules, describing what kind of performance you have a right to expect from a REALTOR®. It's your guarantee of professional conduct and the best in service." CREA

A realtor helps you find the house, takes care that the price is right, helps you deciding what you can afford to pay for the house, informs you about the paperwork you need to do, connects you with the right people (mortgage broker, lawyers, inspectors, etc.), and that is just a little list of the many things they help you with.

My recommendation for a realtor? Dionis team, any one you choose from that group I can certify that are the best of the best, they work with Royal LePage and I can give you their information anytime!

And how much is going to cost you the services of a realtor if you are buying? NOTHING, zero; the services of a realtor when you are buying are 100% free, so why not? :)

Monday, 6 October 2008

Nuit Blanche Toronto

Nuit Blanche (White Night or All Nighter) is an annual all-night cultural festival. The festival lasts from sundown until sunrise on the first Saturday and Sunday in October and has, since its premiere in Paris in 2002, spread to many other cities internationally, including Toronto!

This is the third time Torontians can enjoy this event and this year is estimated that attracted more than 1 million people ^^

It was pretty amazing with galleries and museums open for free, people acting in the streets and works of art all over downtown; we couldn't see everything since it was too much, but we had a GREAT time and I wanted to share what we were able to see :)

Into the blue: Fujiwara Takahiro’s "Into the Blue" is a giant, illuminated, transparent cone-shaped balloon. Floating in the middle of the Eaton Centre, "Into the Blue" will present two distinct faces. From a distance, it will reflect and refract the surrounding light.

Up close, one will be able to walk beneath the work and experience it as an environment.

Zombies in Condoland: "Zombies in Condoland" is a series of night actions that mimic a film screening set for a low-budget horror film.

Waterfall: Katharine Harvey suspended a "quilt" of recyclable plastic from the north side of the Ontario Power Generation Building, suggesting a suspended waterfall.

LIGHT UP THE NIGHT - Sitting Ducks: Be part of nature in the city and visit the ducks of Devonian Pond - located in the heart of the Ryerson University campus. For one night only, the live ducks that traditionally visit the pond will be replaced by hundreds of environmentally friendly man-made ducks - bedazzled with light and playfullly moving throughout the water.

Stereoscope: Stereoscope is an interactive light installation at Toronto City Hall. This installation by the German group Project Blinkenlights transforms the landmark towers into a huge display screen by arranging lamps behind each of the 960 windows of the building. From dusk till dawn, the fa├žade will serve as an ever-changing and evolving kaleidoscope of graphic animations automatically generated and interactively orchestrated.

Saturday, 4 October 2008


Fall is here! Well, it has been here for a few days, but I finally have a few pictures to show you :D

The temperature? 11C ;)


Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Immigration: The Constant State of Doubt

My first invited blogger was really fast! He wrote his post in spanish and I did the translation, hopefully I got it right! Enjoy :)

I've been in this country for 3 years, but if we take the application process and others, then it has been more than 4 years with Canada in my head. It's just that the immigration subject doesn't start the day you arrive in Canada... it starts way before! Maybe even the same day you decide to leave your country, and between the different options, we had this country.

Since that holy day we decided to leave and thought of Canada as an option, the doubts started: "Should I really have to go?", "and will it be Canada the right place?", "Will I find a job?", "How much money will I need?", and like that, hundreds of questions went through our heads and will continue to go until the day we say yes, Canada is the place where we want to go, no Spain, no Australia and no Italy... Canada.

During the whole process we continue to hesitate. During that year and a half (or more) that the immigration process takes, we get so much information, take all the paths that Google offers, read blogs, forums and newspapers, listen to the radio, watch movies and tv, talk to friends and strangers, and learn. We'll be learning for 18 months or more, and filling our heads with information that will help us decide. Decide what we will do about our professional experience, with our studies, where we'll live, what we'll eat... and like in every other learning process, the more we learn, the more we have doubts!

The instant you arrive you'll get doubts about your everyday life, with the new things you'll encounter in your path. Doubts about how to handle the day to day, if the choice was correct, or maybe if the winter boots will be as warm as we thought. The everyday life, our new routine and the one of our family will also give us challenges and doubts. Even though, I think doubt is an essential and necessary part of our lives. Doubt is, among other things, part of our soul food that will makes us learn.

I've been 3 years in this country and every day I have more doubts, because if I have doubts I exist... and I like to know that I'm still alive.



These days I've been thinking that I have several posts in mind but don't have the time to write them (fall, real estate agents, square one, and others) and that I have so many people that read me and have really good opinions and subjects to talk about, that I decided to make an invitation.

I want to invite everyone to post in my blog, just write me to with the subject and the post, in can be in english, spanish or both (even better) so it will be in both blogs. I would like it to be something that will help the readers, for example, if you are in Canada, something you had to do in your immigration process or some interesting experience you had; if you are in another country, some visit you did here or a piece of interesting news you read about.

I won't publish everything I get, but I'll write back telling you why, or the date it will be published :) And it will have the name of the author (you can use a nick if you want).

What do you think?